Honolulu council member Rod Tam stripped of chair titles after ethics ruling

Honolulu council member Rod Tam stripped of chair titles after ethics ruling
Todd Apo
Todd Apo

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu councilman Rod Tam has been stripped of his committee chair titles for using taxpayer money for personal meals. Between fiscal year 2006 and 2009, the city's ethics commission says Tam received almost $12,000 in reimbursements for meals that cost less than he claimed or were not related to city business.

At the Kabuki Restaurant, Tam said he spent $88 on two state employees discussing the economy and education. But restaurant receipts show it was actually a Valentine's Day dinner with his wife and two others.

A $240 tab from Empress Restaurant was supposed to be for a Chinatown crime prevention meeting. Investigators say receipts show someone else paid for that meal. The $240 was for a family party a few nights later.

Tam says the mistakes were just lapses in memories. He offered to repay the money and fines equaling $13,700 as well as resign as zoning committee chair. He was removed from other committee leadership.

"My understanding is that the prosecutor's office will be reviewing the advisory opinion and we'll be waiting to see what their decision is as to whether or not to proceed on any criminal investigation that's going to be something left up to the prosecuting office" said council chair Todd Apo.

Tam told investigators any overcharging was because of mistakes in memory and added he often undercharged as well. He did cooperate with the action and made the first offer to reimburse the city.

Tam was not available for comment Thursday.

Rod Tam has faced controversy before during his two terms at Honolulu Hale. In 2008 he upset people in the Latino community after using a racial slur to describe undocumented workers at a zoning meeting.

Tam admitted to the mistake and joined other council members in censuring himself. Most recently, Tam has been on the frontlines of the push to clean up Chinatown.

Council member Charles Djou is calling for Tam to resign. In a statement Djou says "Tam has violated the public's trust and he should resign... I encourage city prosecutor Peter Carlisle to immediately investigate Tam and prosecute any misconduct to the fullest extent of the law."